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Sister Pauline Quinn, OP, Brings Healing to Prisoners Who Train Service Dogs

October 4, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – “Life is about bringing love to others. It’s about giving people the ability to turn their lives around.”

Those were the words of Dominican Sister Pauline Quinn, OP, in a special October 2 presentation to the Adrian Dominican Sisters at the Dominican Life Center. Those words described the message that she hopes prison inmates throughout the United States receive as they learn to train dogs to be of service to people with disabilities. 

Sister Pauline could apply those same words to her own life experience: just like the prison inmates and the people with disabilities, Sister Pauline suffered much abuse and hardship as a child, but her life was turned around by a German shepherd named Joni.

Sister Pauline – who made private vows as a Dominican Sister and who is not formally a member of a Dominican Congregation – now makes her home at the Dominican Life Center with retired Adrian Dominican Sisters. Accompanied by her own service dog, Pax, she shared her life story with the Sisters and expressed her gratitude for their kindness and hospitality.

Her early years were filled with abuse and rejection. She had lived in 14 different institutions and in many ways was misunderstood and treated harshly. Even after leaving the institutions and living as a homeless woman in Los Angeles, Sister Pauline struggled, but she began to see the need to focus on taking care of herself and ignoring what others thought of her.

At this point, she turned to God. “I told him that if he would help me change my life, I would help the other people,” she said. “I heard he helped the birds of the air.” God listened to her prayer and sent her a German shepherd. “A dog named Joni helped me realize that I was a worthwhile human being,” she said. “When Joni was sent to me from Texas, her demeanor helped people realize that they had to treat me with respect. …It was the start of my dignity.” 

Joni became the bridge to Sister Pauline’s life’s work. “Because I loved Joni I wanted to learn how to train dogs,” she said. “Unconditional love brings people together. I became other-centered. A new life started to open up to me.”

Since 1981, this new life has involved Sister Pauline’s ministry of initiating dog-training programs in prisons. She established the first program, the Prison Pet Partnership, at a women’s prison in Washington State. Similar programs have since been established at prisons throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe.

“There were many disabled waiting for a dog,” she recalled. “Having a dog by their side would help them regain their self-respect and esteem. Prisoners who trained the dogs started to heal from their own pain. I saw firsthand that finding meaning for our lives through the unconditional love of a dog can help people to be healed.” 

Sister Pauline explained that many of the dogs are donated to her by breeders. While service dogs are frequently breeds such as Labradors, golden retrievers, German shepherds, and poodles, a dog’s breed is not the deciding factor. “The primary concern is temperament and health,” she said. “The dog has to be flexible and tolerant of noise, with good hips and good health.”

She continued in her ministry of initiating prison dog programs through Bridges and Pathways of Courage, a non-profit organization established in 1985. Other programs under Bridges and Pathways focus on providing hope for children through education, medical services, and improved living environments; helping people who are disenfranchised by offering them opportunities; and supporting and caring for people suffering from trauma.

Sister Pauline continues to reach out to people throughout the world who are in need of help. She told the Sisters of her help for Emmanuel, a young man from Uganda who needed assistance in opening a preparatory school in his home town. “It seemed like an impossible task to build a school in that remote area,” she said. “God took care of many birds of the air, so I knew God could help me to help Emmanuel.” She has raised money to open the school for 138 children and to build a dormitory to protect the girls. “That, too, was built” with the help of many donors, she said.

In November 2018, Sister Pauline will visit Hong Kong to help establish a service dog program. “They only use guide dogs for the blind,” she said. “This will be to open the doors” to the use of other service dogs in Hong Kong.

In all of her work, Sister Pauline is dedicated to reaching out in love and compassion to all people who suffer from abuse and who are marginalized in any way. “No matter how much I protested, God kept wielding me and I became a fighter for God’s marginalized, so they would never be treated as junk any more.” 

Sisters and Co-workers Bless New Beauty Salon

September 14, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Retired Adrian Dominican Sisters residing at the Dominican Life Center (DLC), along with DLC Administrators, Chaplains, and Co-workers, blessed a place of beauty, friendship, and restoration on September 6: the newly renovated DLC Beauty Salon.

“This is a sacred space,” said Sister Mary Rae Waller, OP, Chaplain and Pastoral Minister. “We have claimed it as our sacred space, so all the love and light, the renewal, the courage, the encouragement, the tears that flow – all of that is for the health of the whole community.”

During the blessing ritual, Beauticians Lisa Schneider and Chris Iott walked through the crowded hallway outside of the beauty salon, accepting the blessing of touch from each Sister in the assembly.

Beautician Chris Iott walks among the Sisters to have her hands blessed.

Jennifer Jenkins, Chaplain and Pastoral Minister, blessed the new salon with water from the font in St. Catherine Chapel. Sister Mary Rae noted that the water has transforming power – the same power that, through the hands of Chris and Lisa, transforms the Sisters, “so that we will feel within ourselves that we have been refreshed and recommitted to move forward in the beauty that is still burning within our souls to find a place to express itself.”

With the help of donations from benefactors, the former beauty shop at the DLC was relocated to a larger space next door. The new beauty salon was updated with styling chairs and height-adjustable shampooing sinks that can be accessed from a wheelchair, mirrored salon stations, and dryers.

In addition, the larger space allows Sisters to wait inside the salon. “This is a social event,” explained Adrian Dominican Associate Cheryl Pickney, DLC Administrator. “The beauty shop is probably the most frequented common space in this building.”

Cheryl explained that the Beauty Salon fulfills an important role in the lives of the residents. The salon “is good for the Sisters’ morale,” she said. “Everybody wants to feel like they look good and Sisters don’t have to go outside the building to have it done.”

Cheryl thanked all the people who were involved in the renovation of the Beauty Salon: Jan Perry, DLC Administrative Assistant, who “worked tirelessly to find just the right equipment;” the beauticians, Chris Iott and Lisa Schneider; Sister Carol Fleming, OP, for her “artistic insight;” Joel Henricks, Director of Facilities and Grounds, who served as project manager, working with Krieghoff-Lenawee Construction; Nilda Rau, Director of Resident Services; and Amy Palmer, Director of Development, who reached out to benefactors to provide funding.

Rounding out the construction project was repurposing the space of the former beauty shop into an art room, used by groups of Sisters to create arts and crafts. Refurbished with updated tables, chairs, and cabinetry, the art room is a fitting place for Helping Hands, a group of Sisters, to create crafts for local charitable organizations – currently dog and cat toys for the Lenawee County Humane Society. “It gives Sisters the opportunity to give to the community,” Cheryl explained.  “They’ve always been giving people, and this group gives Sisters the avenue to give back.”

Feature photo at top: Jennifer Jenkins, Chaplain and Pastoral Minister, blesses Sisters Betty Gaiss, OP, and Marion O’Connor, OP, during the dedication of the Dominican Life Center Beauty Salon.

View more photos of the Beauty Salon on our Instagram page.



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